Suzanne Gamboa, NBC News, May 29, 2014
House Republicans may not be moving the immigration measures the president wants, but they are backing those pushed by polarizing Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King.
On Thursday, one day after Latino groups gave several GOP House members failing grades on immigration, the House voted 218-193 to pay for the Department of Justice to investigate the release of immigrants, some with criminal charges or convictions by the Department of Homeland Security.
“It is defacto amnesty that is going on at the Department of Homeland Security,” King said Wednesday night on the House floor. “Let’s protect the American people from criminals being poured loose on the street by the tens of thousands.”
The amendment, attached to a bill funding Commerce, Justice and State departments, would provide $5 million for the investigation. The House was voting on the larger spending bill Thursday afternoon.
It’s the second amendment sponsored by King that the House has approved. The previous, also approved on a largely partisan vote, effectively would end the deportation deferrals the Obama administration granted young immigrants here illegally.
The vote on King’s first amendment was used by Latino groups to develop scorecards for members of Congress. The groups said they would use the scorecards to inform Latino voters of members’ records on immigration for the coming midterms and in the 2016 presidential races.
For Republicans facing tough primary elections, the vote helps demonstrate their toughness immigration enforcement, although it could make courting the Latino vote more difficult in coming years. The complex political situation some GOP officials face was seen Thursday as House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., who has a tea party primary opponent, was criticized by conservatives as a cheerleader for “amnesty” and by Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., as a barrier to an immigration reform vote.
Advocates for young immigrants, or DREAMers, also denounced the vote, but turned their anger on Obama for waiting on the House GOP to take action on immigration reform and not using his presidential powers to curb deportations immediately. On Tuesday, Obama asked Johnson to wait until after this summer to release results from his review of immigration enforcement policies and whether they are being applied humanely.
Virginia Republican Rep. Bob Goodlatte, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, convened a hearing Thursday that focused on release of immigrants convicted or charged with crimes.
He accused the Obama administration of taking “unprecedented” and “likely unconstitutional” steps on immigration enforcement by releasing or not pursuing immigrants who could be deported. He said this has been done under the “guise of prosecutorial discretion.”